1915  (1982)

 

 

 

 

Directors:     Di Drew, Chris Thomson. 

Starring:     Scott Burgess (Billy Mackenzie),  Scott McGregor (Walter Gilchrist),  Lorraine Bayly (Helen Gilchrist),  Gary Holmes (Douggie Gilchrist),  Bill Hunter (Alan Gilchrist),  Jackie Woodburne (Dianna Bendetto),  Arna-Maria Winchester (Brigid Scott),  Russell Newman (Dave Scott),  Revelly Jones (Henry Scott),  Sigrid Thornton (Frances),  Bill Kerr,  Anne Haddy (Mrs. Gillen),  Gerard Kennedy (Dent),  Serge Lazareff (Blackly Reid),  Richard Moir (Rev. Fox).

two Australian country boys vie for the same girl, but their world changes when  they land in Gallipoli 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire mini-series. 

 

Episode I.  Best of Friends. 

Flashback.  At school the students salute the Australian flag.  They say the oath, part of which says:  "I love God and my country.  I honor the flag.  I will serve the King and obey my parents, teachers and the laws of our land."  A mischievous boy named Billy Mackenzie uses his slingshot to hit another student.  The teacher immediately suspects Billy.  He tells him to hand over the slingshot.  Billy's punishment will be six licks and writing the national anthem 50 times. 

Billy plays on the banks of a stream.  A friend of his named Walter Gilchrist throws a stone in the water in front of Billy and gets him wet.  Billy retaliates by throwing stones at Walter.  He backs Walter up to the edge of the water until Walter falls in.  When Walter cries, Billy taunts him with:  "Walter's a cry baby!" 

 Back to the present.  Billy is out hunting on his white horse.  After shooting a hawk he goes to see the blonde-haired grocer woman.  Her name is Brigid Scott and she is a widow.  Meanwhile, two brothers, Dave and Henry, drive their carriage on their way to see Brigid.  At the store they ring the bell.  Brigid hears the bell and panics.  She tells Billy that  her late husband Arnie's two brothers are at the door.  They both want to marry her in order to keep the store in the family.  Billy has to get dressed fast and run out. 

Billy goes to the railroad station.  He is waiting for Walter to arrive from university.  While waiting, he sees a beautiful brunette on the train.  He talks to her and she asks him:  "Do you always stare at people?"  Billy asks for her name, but she does not tell him.  She leaves with the train.  At the train station, Billy and Walter's dad greet Walter.  Billy starts telling Walter about the beautiful woman he just met.

Billy rides home.  He scolds his mother for working so hard.  Walter and his father arrive home to the farmhouse where Walter greets his mother and his younger brother Douggie.  He learns that Douggie is going to be going to boarding school in Sidney.  Walter is working on a degree in geology and has two more years of schooling left.  His father, however, wants him to work the farm for two to three years and then, if he is still interested, finish the geology degree.  Walter explains to his father that you cannot do it like that.  A break means a loss of much of the knowledge needed to get a degree in geology. 

Billy and Walter talk together.  Billy tells Walter that Ethel like him, but Walter says:  "I can't talk to girls."  Billy says he already has a girl.  Walter knows that it is the widow Brigid.  The two friends have a horse race, which Billy wins.   

Blackly Reid, the mail carrier, rides his motor bike up to the two friends.  He stops to tell Billy that there is a job that he can get working with sheep.  Billy is interested.  Later Billy stops to talk with Brigid.  She tells him that Dave Scott and she are engaged and she will be married soon.  So now she tells him:  "You've got to keep away.  You can't come round here any more."  Billy is disgusted and leaves. 

On the day of the big horse race a band plays for the crowd.  Even the Reverend has come out to watch.  Billy is one of the competitors.  There to watch him are the widow, Walter and Ethel.  Billy wins the horse race, which makes Dave Scott mad (while the widow herself is happy).  At the local saloon, to his friends a very angry Billy calls Brigid a dirty rotten slut.  Walter drinks, starts feeling drunk, rushes outside and throws up. 

Dave and Henry sneak up on Billy.  They grab and beat him.  The local constabulary comes along, accuses Billy of being drunk and tells him that he should run him in. 

Walter works on the family farm.  His mother comes out to tell him that Mrs. MacKenzie is sick again.  They have to take her to the doctor, since Billy is not at home and the husband is useless.  After taking Billy's mother to the doctor Walter finds out from his mother that the poor woman has cancer.  She adds:  "Billy doesn't know and he's not to."  Meanwhile, Billy is sleeping outside with his dog watching over the boss's sheep. 

Billy finishes the job and heads to Forbes and the Railway Hotel.  As he waits to ask for a room, he is shocked to see the pretty girl from the train.  Her name is Frances Riley.  Her father owns the hotel and she helps out when she is not at school.  She says that she belongs in the big city.  Billie responds by telling her that he is interested in her.  She tells him that small talk and good will is all she has for him.  She talks with him while he eats his dinner.  She says she will soon be going back to St. Katherine's College for Music for Young Ladies in Sidney.  Dad Pat Riley sits down at Billy's table.  He tells the young man that Frances has had a lot of blokes interested in her.  Most of them want to rush off with her, but it's not going to happen: ". . . not while I'm around."  Billy tells Frances that her father thinks he is a danger to her.  Frances just laughs and says that her father doesn't have a clue about what a young woman thinks.  She adds:  "No one's a danger to me."   

At night Billy's dog barks and barks.  Billy goes out to see what is the matter and finds an aboriginal girl.  Figuring that she is a prostitute he forces her into sex despite her telling him that he has got her wrong and to stay away.  When Billy finishes he throws her a coin, but she just throws it at him and hits him in the back.  Billy merely says:  "Suit yourself."  He picks up the coin, sticks it in his pocket and leaves.  Pat Riley saw Billy with the aboriginal woman and he tells Billy that he wants him to pay his bill and get out first thing in the morning.  He adds:  ". . . and stay away from my daughter."  Frances, not knowing what happened, is surprised to see Billy get on his horse and leave. 

Billy arrives back home.  His mother is now doing fine.  An article in the paper is all about the Kaiser.  Walter is going to go back to university since he still has an already paid term to go.  Billy asks Walter for a favor.  At the train station, Billy introduces Walter to Frances.  The two will sit together on the train headed to Sidney.  Billy tells Walter to find out from Frances if she likes him and then write him a letter from Sidney. 

Episode II.  The Girl on the Night Mail. 

On the train Walter tells Frances that Billy asked him to keep her company.  Frances says:  "I wish people would stop trying to run my life."  She says it so forcefully that Walter says he shouldn't have bothered her.  Frances says it's o.k.  She tells him about her mother who teaches piano and has many male admirers.  Walter asks her if she likes Billy and she says that he is rather direct and overconfident.  A little later she asks Walter:  "Would you like to kiss me?"  Walter thinks that's a little too bold and declines. 

Billy reads the paper to his mother.  Mom complains about all the war talk.  Another story is about a new national parliament to be at Canberra. On the train, Walter puts Frances's blanket back on her in order to give her some protection from the cold. Still on the train Walter writes a letter to Billy describing Frances as beautiful, so different and so alive. Frances's mother meets her at the train station. Mom does not seem happy at all when she sees Frances with Walter. After adding to his letter the phrase "I think I love her", Walter tears up the letter to Billy. He writes another letter saying that he regrets to inform Billy that Frances is not interested in him. Billy writes back saying basically, "that's life".                                            

In Sidney Frances speaks with her friend Diana who has come for tea. Frances's mother tells Diana that Frances has an admirer. Diana asks: "Which one?" Mother is shocked and Frances has to do some fast talking to convince her that there is only Walter in the picture. Mom tells her: "Look for the pearls -- not the oysters."

Billy's mother dies. The funeral is held.

Walter calls Frances. He tells her that he is at Central Station. Frances tells him: "Do come next year." But Walter won't be back next year. He tells France that he will write her.

Walter sees Billy at the grave of his mother. After saying he is sorry about his mother, he tells Billy he wants to talk to him about Frances. Billy says he should have guessed that Walter would like Frances. He laughs. He starts to leave telling Walter that he feels like ramming his teeth right down his throat.

Walter sees Billy again. Billy turns down Walter's invitation to have a drink. Billy's friend Blackly Reid teases Walter about stealing Billy's girl and then laughs at him. Walter heads into the saloon, but he finds no peace there. The bartender has heard the news and she laughs at him too. Walter leaves in disgust.

Billy is leaving the family farm. His father tries to stop him from leaving, but has no success.

Frances reads a letter from Walter and she smiles. Her mother asks about Walter. She then moans about the mistakes that "we women" make about men. She adds: "Don't encourage Walter."

Billy looks for work with Mr. Dent as a roust-about.   Dent hires him for a couple of weeks.  Billy sleeps in the barn. 

Frances can't stand her mother's most recent boyfriend, Harry.  But she does ask him to post a letter for her to Walter.  Later mom tells Harry about Walter and says she doesn't want to encourage the young man.  After Harry leaves, Frances tells mom that Harry is kind of "mushy".  At the station, Harry throws Frances's letter into the waters of the harbor. 

Mom brings the mail out to her son Walter.  It's just the university magazine.  Walter is disappointed because he wanted a letter from Frances.  Mom asks if this Frances is important.  He lies and says "not really".

Billy works the sheep with Mr. Dent.  He fixes, serves ant eats dinner with Dent.  The farmer says that Mrs. Dent left him.  She's in Sidney now.  One day, Billy's dog finds something that he tries to dig up.  Billy comes over to investigate and finds a very whitened hand of a woman.  Dent sees him at the burial place and points his rifle at Billy.  He plans to kill Billy.  After all, he says, no one will miss Billy.  Billy is able to get the rifle away from Dent and then hits him in the face several times.  A little later Dent says his wife drove him crazy with all her whining and nagging.  He then offers Billy 100 quid to forget about what he saw and leave.  Billy agrees, takes the money and leaves. 

Billy dresses up in a nice suit and hat.  He goes to see Frances.  Frances wants to know what he is doing here.  She wants to get rid of him, but mom takes an almost immediate liking to him.  She asks Billy to stay for supper.  Billy tells Frances that her mother is nice.  Frances says:  "She's gullible." 

The local constabulary comes out to see Billy's father.  He wants to ask Billy some questions. 

Billy asks Frances what is Diana like.  While talking, Billy pushes Frances to the floor and kisses her.   Frances forces Billy to let her up.  She then calls him a pig, adding that he is never to do that again.  Billy leaves and she starts crying. 

Back home Walter attends a dance even though he is no dancer.  Blackly Reid comes to the meeting place to tell everyone that Arch-Duke Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Empire has been assassinated at Sarajevo.  Blackly says that this may bring war.  Ethel tells Water that the police are looking for Billy.  Meanwhile, Frances looks forward to receiving a letter from Walter. 

Billy gets off the train.  He is interrogated by the constabulary.  They found a body buried down by the creek at the Dent place.  The policeman wants to know if Dent gave Billy any money.  There are 100 quid missing.  And, even more importantly, Dent has hung himself.  Billy plays it cool and the policeman has to let him go.  Billy sees Walter and smiles.  Walter responds by coming over to Billy and shaking his hand.  Billy wants to make a pact.  If there's a war, they both will be in it.  Walter agrees tot he pact.

Billy goes home.  His father wants to know where he has been and why are the police looking for him.  

Walter's mother complains to her husband about the only news they hear about these days is all war talk.  But Dad objects.  About war he shouts:  "It's coming!"  

 Part III.  The Day the Lights went Out.

Billy is at home.   Blackly Reid comes by honking his horn.  Before leaving Billy gives his father some money, which shocks dad.  He then leaves with Blackly.  Brigid watches as the two drive past her grocery store.  Blackly suggests that maybe Brigid regrets her having rejected Billy.  Arriving at their destination, Billy picks out and buys a horse from Blackly for 12 quid.  Later Billy sees the nurse May and tells her he will come to see her. 

Frances plays the piano.  Harry and her mother come in.  He tells Frances that he shaved for the gondoliers.  They talk about Billy.  Later mom asks Harry about the letter and he tells her he dropped it in the harbor.  She smiles.   

Walter speaks with his father about work on the farm.  He says that for him war might be a way out.  This shocks dad. 

Billy takes the nurse to the movies.  Later he kisses her and they get chased away by an older man.

Walter comes to the railway station.  He greets his brother Douggie.  Frances sees Walter and shouts to him.  She complains that she wrote to him but never got a letter in return.  Walter says he never received the letter.  He adds that he thinks he knows what happened.  Walter and Frances promise to write to each other from now on. 

Billy works on fixing a fence.  Walter rides up on his horse and invites him to come over for a meal.  Then Walter says that Billy and his friend (Brigid Scott) at the post officer waylaid the letter that Frances sent to him.  Billy doesn't know what Walter is talking about.  At dinner the talk is of war.  Father Gilchrist says that the coming events will be like a chain reaction and eventually England will get into the war.  And then that means the Empire, and more specifically the Australians, will be all in.  Walter doesn't say much at dinner.  Billy tells everyone that the two of them made a pact to join up in case of war.  Mother Gilchrest answers harshly:  "No you don't!"  Dad says he'd go if he was their age -- "like a shot."  In private Walter tells Billy:  "Let's talk about Frances."  He says that Billy is "bloody sneaky" when it comes to women.  Billy responds by telling Walter just to stick to Frances:  "You'll be all right with her." 

At night May cries for someone to help her.  A man hears her cry and comes out with a lantern to see what is going on.  May has been beaten badly.  The constabulary comes to get Billy.  He brings Billy to the hospital to see May.  "Did he do it?" asks the constabulary.  May says it was dark; she couldn't see.  Back at the police headquarters the constabulary deliberately misinterprets what May said to mean that she identified Billy as the assailant.  When Billy denies it, he calls him a liar.  The constabulary goes on and on until another policeman tells him that they caught the assailant.  So, Billy is innocent.  All the constabulary says is that if Billy says one more word, he will thrash him. 

In Sidney mother tells Harry that Frances is back and infinitely more cheerful.  She adds that she thinks they've heard the last of Walter Gilchrist.  Frances writes back to Walter.  Then she talks with Diana about Walter. 

Billy rides to the post office.  He sees a bunch of guys on a flat-bed truck shouting.  Blackly shouts to Billy:  "It's on.  The war is on."   Walter hears the news and responds:  "Well, this is it at last."  Billy rides out to Walter's place.  He tells Walter's father:  "We're gonna hand these Germans a real hiding."  In town there is a big spontaneous celebration.  The saloon is full with talkative men. Blackly starts picking on an old German-Australian.  Billy steps up to put a stop to it.  In frustration Blackly shoots a pistol at the saloon ceiling.  

Billy goes to see Brigid.  Back in town Dave looks for Billy with no success and tells his brother that Billy is missing.  The two brothers race for home.  Brigid hears them coming and Billy starts his escape.  The guys think they can catch Billy's horse before he gets to it.  But they can't find the horse.  Brigid comes out and scolds the men for scaring her.  Dave says to her:  "Where is he?"  Billy gets away on his bicycle. 

There are big fireworks in Sidney.  Frances comments to her mother that she has the feeling that the war is going to change her life somehow.  Billy comes to Sidney to join the army.  Walter and his family sing "Onward Christian Soldier" in church.  The reverend tells the audience that God is on their side and that their cause is just.  Mom tells Walter that he does not have to go.  But the young guys all seem to be signing up, including Blackly. 

Billy begins his basic training.  He first learns how to march.  Instead of rifles, they have to march using broom sticks.  Billy is going to be part of the Light Horse outfit.  He complains to the sergeant that it seems a waste of time to be marching up and down when they are going to be riding horses.  The sergeant just says:  "The army is never wrong."

Walter joins the army.  He thanks his father for his support and understanding.  But mom is not happy at all. 

Billy's outfit gets their rifles. 

Episode IV.  Your Country Needs You

 In a general meeting the host asks for the town residents to buy the equivalent of war bonds.  Reverend Fox writes down the amounts.  (The reverend really seems a little over-patriotic.)   Ethel catches Walter's eye and they both go outside.  The local German fellow is being arrested.  Walter protests against this but without success.  The constabulary says he has his orders.  Ethel and Walter go for a carriage ride.  Ethel not only gives him a good-bye kiss, but wants to give him a lot more but tow mischievous children discover them and start laughing.  Ethel chases them away, but her opportunity is spoiled. 

Billy really kills the Kaiser dummy at bayonet practice.  He also impresses his trainers by scoring all bull's eyes at rifle practice. 

Dad tells Walter:  "I envy you."  Mother tells him that he can still change his mind:  "It's not too late."  Walter tells his father:  "I can't back out now."

In Sidney Frances gets another letter from Walter.  This upsets mother a great deal.  She wants her daughter to marry the 28 year old rich Robert Gillam, but Frances fights her all the way. Instead, she want Walter to come to dinner at the house. 

Billy has horse riding practice, while Walter takes the oath.  When Billy and Walter reunite, Billy starts immediately to help him.  Walter gets "Pig" Nolan as his tent mate.  Nolan loves to tease Walter as being a mommy's boy.  Walter writes Frances again.  He notes that he is just ten miles away from her.  Billy is conscripted to do some horse breaking.  The rumor is that embarkation will be around mid-October. 

Mom complains to Harry about Frances and Walter.  Billy comes to visit.  Mom is thrilled but Frances sneaks out of the house.  She goes to Diana's place to get Diana to come back to her house to help her deal with Billy.  Frances tells Diana that she might even like Billy.  At the house Diana is introduced to Billy.  Diana's father is a captain in the army.  Billy likes Diana and makes a deal with Frances and Diana.  If they arrange a dinner date for them at home, he will get Walter to come with him.  The girls agree. 

Walter watches as Billy does some bronco-busting.  Walter bets that Billy will win.  Billy does win, but when Walter goes to "Pig" Nolan for his winnings, Nolan gives him a real hard time.  The two troopers come to blows.  Nolan wins the fight.  The rumor is now that embarkation will be at the end of October. 

Walter gets a letter from Frances.  But it is not even a page long.  Walter tells Billy that he is mad that Billy did not mention that he paid a visit to Frances.  He says:  "You just can't leave Frances alone, can you?" 

Billy dances at Frances's house with the mother.  Harry and Robert are there also.  Walter is late, but he does arrive.  He is upset that he cannot be all alone with just Frances.  Robert is teaching the group the newest dance from Argentina:  the tango.  After the dancing they have champagne on the lawn.  Frances takes Walter in the house for a short time where they kiss.  Outside Billy and Diana hold hands.  At night the two couples wait for the ferry while deliberately missing boat after boat.  Walter tells Frances that he loves her.  Frances says: "Silly!"

In seven days the troopers will embark.  Their command wishes them:  "God speed, God bless and God protect you."  Walter and Billy stay in Sidney for their leave and have fun with Frances and Diana.  Walter heard about a hotel where they could go and the two couples spend the night at the hotel.  Both couples have sexual relations.  Frances tells Walter not to go, not to leave her.  Walter promises her:  "I'll marry you the minute I get back." 

Episode V.  Soldiers of the King. 

Newsreel footage of soldiers getting on "The Star of Victoria".  Walter and Billy's unit finds their hammocks. 

In Sidney Diana cuts out newspaper pictures to put in a scrapbook to comply with Billy's request.  She will stay for dinner with Frances and her mother.  Robert Gillam is also coming to dinner.  Walter writes to Frances saying "If only we had more time."  Diana's mother asks her daughter about this Billy MacKenzie.

The troops learn that they will be disembarking in Egypt.  They are shocked.  They want to know what happened to France and England.  The officer tells them that from Egypt they will go on to France.  An older soldier known as Melrose tells them that they will enjoy Cairo.  But the men are not stationed in Cairo.  They tent in the desert.  They razz Melrose for his optimistic reports on Egypt. 

Diana tells Frances that she has not been writing Walter.   Frances answers:  ". . . what does one say?"

The troopers duly note that next Saturday is Christmas. 

In Sidney there is a big fireworks display to celebrate the arrival of 1915.  Robert is there and Diana sees Robert and Frances kissing. 

Walter is very sad about the sole letter he has received from Frances.  The unit goes into town.  An Egyptian prostitute catches the eyes of Walter.  He is intrigued, but does not follow up on the exchange of glances.  Melrose unsuccessfully tries to cheer Walter up.  Melrose gets stinking drunk and Walter and Billy have to help him back to camp. 

Frances learns that Harry is distraught.  The love of his life has joined the army.  She is shocked to learn of Harry's homosexuality.  Frances tells Diana.  The relationship is a bit strained between the two friends because Frances says that Diana disapproves of her relationship with Robert.  Diana tells Frances that she is going to have a baby.

Diana's mother cries about the pregnancy.  Diana begs her not to tell her father.  But Frances's mother thinks she has a solution to the somewhat embarrassing situation.  Harry tells Diana that she must write and tell Billy, but Diana says she doesn't want to make him feel trapped.  Outside Robert is kissing Frances again. 

Frances accompanies Diana to Forbes to the hotel owned by her father Pat Riley.  Dad is led to believe that Diana is Mrs. Benedetto.  The baby is due in August.   

Walter does not receive a letter, but Billy does.  Diana writes to tell Billy about Robert Gillam and Frances.  (Robert invites Frances and Diana to spent a couple of weeks with him and his family at Westbury.)  It's now April. 

A sad Walter goes to town again.  But this time when he sees the Egyptian prostitute he goes with her.  (He sees Frances's face in the Egyptian's face.) 

Frances arranges the little mini-vacation of mid-May.  Diana asks Frances if Robert is still engaged to the woman in Argentina.  Frances says she doesn't really care.   Diana sighs:  "Poor Walter!"  But Frances says that she hardly even remembers what he looks like.

Melrose asks Walter how was his experience with the prostitute.  Walter admits that it was dreadful.  They had to use a room that stank of other people. 

The troopers learn that the infantry has landed in Gallipoli.  It was a hell of a bloody battle says the rumor.  It is April 25.  The troopers in Egypt will be sent in as reinforcements.  But they are not going as a light horse unit.  They will be used as infantry.  The horses will stay behind. 

Diana looks over the casualty lists from Gallipoli.  Harry says that they had a battle, but:  "My God it must have been a massacre!"

The troopers arrive at Gallipoli.  Soon Billy and a few others get separated from their mates.  A veteran of the battle, Reg Hurst, says:  "Welcome to hell!"  A glimpse at part of the battlefield shows a lot of dead Australian troops along with much fewer Turks.  Billy is called to duty as a sniper. 

Walter and his unit will be heading into battle.  Meanwhile, Billy accompanies Lt. Fey in a rush up a hill.  They are constantly almost getting shot by the Turk bullets.  Walter learns that the Turk trench is only 30 yards away from them.  As they await the call to battle, a number of enemy grenades land in the trench.  The men throw blankets over the grenades and then run down the trench.  The blankets limit the amount of shrapnel.  A grenade with a short fuse lands in the trench; nobody gets to it quickly; an Australian soldier is killed. 

Episode VI.  Hands Across the Sea.

The Australians are in the trenches being shelled by the Turks.  Diana checks the newspapers for articles, one of which is entitled:  "Light Horse Reinforcements on Gallipoli."  Billy kills two Turks manning a machine gun.  He notches his rifle with each kill and there are a lot of notches on his rifle.  The lieutenant tells him that he is getting famous, but he mustn't get careless.  The veteran Reg Hurst tells his mates that he has used up all of his nine lives.  Rev. Fox is now in the trenches.  Walter thinks he saw him, but concludes he's just seeing things.  The Reverend is looking for Billy and finally he finds him.  Lt. Fey won't wake Billy to see the Reverend.  He will have to come back.  The Reverend tells the lieutenant that a staff captain wants to see Billy.  Billy gets the nickname "the murderer" because of his many kills as a sniper.  When the Reverend leaves, Billy (without opening his eyes) tells the lieutenant thanks for not letting the Reverend talk to him. 

The guys thinks that Reg Hurst is losing it.  He gets naked to take a swim before he dies.  Pig Nolan sees him leave and refers to him as a "nut case".  A shell lands in the trench where Reg is and he is killed heading out for his swim.

Frances tells Diana to write the letter telling Billy that he is going to be a daddy.  The two young women argue over Robert Gillam and Walter Gilchrest.  Frances finally says:  "We need each other."  She laughs when she thinks that they were quarreling about "boys and babies". 

Diana's father, the staff captain, scurries up the hill to speak with Billy.  He tells Billy that Diana is going to have a baby.  Billy is very pleased. 

Robert drives Frances and Diana to his parents' place.  Mrs. Gillam mistakes Frances for Diana.  Mr. Gillam speaks of the dreadful affair on Gallipoli.  The casualty list is shocking he says.  Mother has been in Constantinople and wants to know how far from it is Gallipoli.  200 miles is the answer. 

Lt. Fey checks on Billy again.  Billy tells him that he can't stand the stink of the dead bodies laying on the field. 

When Frances talks with Robert in private she tells him that his mother doesn't like her.  Robert tells her:  "Don't be silly!"  Mother likes her and father is quite smitten with her.  He then rides off with three other fellows to muster sheep.  He will be gone for two whole days.  Frances speaks with Diana and tells her that Mrs. Gillam thinks she is not good enough for their family.  She adds that she doesn't belong in this place.  Mr. Gillam sits down with the two women.  He tells them to stay as long as possible.  (Meanwhile, he is rubbing the left thigh of Frances, who is shocked and disturbed.) 

The Reverend tells Walter that he has buried 40 men today.  Walter expresses his doubts about religion and the Reverend himself.  He is very skeptical now of the idealism that accompanied Australia's entry into the war.  The Reverend says " . . . we've all changed." 

A truce is called for a couple of hours to let both armies recover and bury their dead.   Billy runs into Blackly Reed.  Blackly is very shaken by his experience in the army.  He argues with Billy who is way too upbeat for Blackly.  The guys play cricket during the lull.  Billy finds Walter and tells him that he is going to be a dad in August.  He asks Walter about Frances and Walter tells him that he has not had a letter from her in months and he doesn't even know why. 

Robert comes home to report that the local river is flooding.  He tells France that their trip is off for the moment.  After Robert leaves, his father rubs Frances's hair against the side of her head.  She gets up and tells everyone she is going to bed.  Robert learns that she is going back to Forbes and wants to know why.  Frances responds that his mother keeps reminding her that he is engaged to the woman in Argentina (Rosa).  She then asks Robert:  "How seriously do you take me?"  He answers:  "Darling, you are a delight."

Walter complains about the lice in the trenches.  And he nearly gets killed when a shell lands not far from him while he walks to take a swim.  

Diana tells Frances that she cannot sleep.  Frances feels her head.  She is burning up.  Frances immediately starts to nurse her.  She works diligently at this endeavor.  Indeed, so much so, that Mrs. Gilliam tells her that she is worn-out and should take a break while she watches Diana.  After being sick for one week, Diana breaks her fever.  Once Diana is over the worst, Frances starts to go to her own bed.  She is intercepted by Robert, who suddenly decides he wants to be amorous.  He puts her to bed, but then gets naked and joins her.  He insists on  having sex even though Frances is near complete exhaustion. 

Frances visits Diana and Diana tells her that Billy already knows.  Her father told Billy about her pregnancy and he is happy about it.  Diana is very relieved that Billy now knows.  Frances wants them to leave for Forbes.  Diana is shocked and asks:  "Why?"  Frances says that she can't stand Robert any more.  She adds that Diana was right all along.  It was a mistake to pursue Robert Gillam.  Frances is in such a hurry to get away that she insists on going even while the rains are still coming down.  Robert directs them to a man with a rowboat on the swollen river.  The rower runs into some branches in the river and gets stuck.  Diana tries to un-stick the boat, but loses her balance and falls into the river.  The strong current of the swollen river takes her under and then down stream.  The rower jumps in to try and save her.  Frances is absolutely distraught. 

Episode VII.  The Last Day of the Year.

The rower is helped by three men to bring in the body of Diana.  At the Gillam house, Mrs. Gillam tells her not to blame herself, but Frances feels guilty for Diana's death.  She thinks of her as she takes the train back to Forbes and then on to Sidney.  Tears stream down her face. 

Harry comes to visit Frances and her mother.  Frances is very depressed and Harry tries to cheer her up.  She tells him it was all her fault and she knows for certain that Diana's mother blames her.  Harry tells her to stop feeling sorry for herself and write and tell Billy.  He has to know.  Harry tells Frances to write it out and he will send it in a cable.  Frances thanks Harry. 

Pig Nolan gives Billy's cable to Rev. Fox.  He tells him, since it is a cable, it must be urgent.  A German airplane flies over the Australian trenches dropping leaflets.  The leaflets blame England for the terrible situation in which the Australians find themselves.  It was the wrong beach at the wrong time for the wrong reason.  It makes Walter ponder the matter. 

When Billy finally gets the cable from the Reverend, he reads it and is absolutely stunned.  Rev. Fox says:  "I'm truly sorry."  The Reverend finds Walter and tells him what happened.  Soon Walter is talking with Billy.  What Billy wants are answers.  For instance, why were Diana and Frances up at the Gillam's place?  Billy sadly says that he was a mug for being happy. 

Walter goes to see Pig Nolan to get some rum to help Billy deal with the tragedy.  Nolan gives him a hard time once again, but the other fellows convince Nolan to get the rum.  Walter calls Nolan a bastard.  Meanwhile, Billy goes back to his sniper position.  Walter asks where is his buddy Melrose.  He's at the hospital.  In a short while Melrose returns.  It's Pig Nolan who was in the hospital.  He was never hit by the shell shrapnel. Instead, the shrapnel broke the rum jar Nolan had with him and he fell on it, the jar ripping into his guts.  He's dead. 

Billy in his foxhole looks at the pictures he has of Diana.  Walter in his trench wonders how many of their original group are still left.  Six weeks is the average life expectancy for the soldiers.  Walter scoffs:  "An adventure they said; a great adventure."

The head of the local Red Cross in Sidney, Mrs. Brewer, comes to the house to ask Frances to volunteer for the Red Cross.  They need girls like her, she says.  Frances doesn't say much and Mrs. Brewer tells her to think it over.  Frances's mother already volunteers for the Red Cross.  She tells her daughter:  "We do need help.  It might even help you."

Lt. Fey catches Billy sleeping in his foxhole and gets the drop on him.  This only makes Billy angry, but the lieutenant only wanted to impress upon him how important it is to stay alert.  He then tells Billy that the Australians are going to launch a diversionary attack on the Turks and he wants Billy to get into position to rain lead down on the new enemy communications center.  Billy starts slowly moving toward his new position. 

Back in the trenches, the Australians find their communication lines cut.  So they choose Walter as a runner.  This is a very dangerous assignment.  When Walter gets out of the trench and starts running, the Turks really zero in on him and fire a fusillade of bullets at him.   This really scares Walter and he gets confused and actually runs to the Turkish trenches.  The one he reaches is empty except for the bodies of dead Turks.  Seeing Walter head into the trench, the Turks send three men out to capture him.  Soon they shoot Walter in the left shoulder and he goes down.  The attack begins, but quickly fails.  The bodies of Australian men litter the fields over which they tried to cross.  Walter is bandaged up and thrown in a jail with other Allied prisoners. 

Mother tells Frances that Walter Gilchrist is alive.  He is a prisoner of war.  She tells Frances that she can write and show friendship to Walter.  Frances doesn't think it's a good idea given her behavior toward Walter.  Mother says:  "I think you're being very cruel."   Frances fires back with:  "And I think you are a hypocrite."  (Mother never liked Walter.)  Harry tells mom that she never made Walter feel welcome in her home.  But Harry tells Frances that it is Billy that he is worried about.  Walter will have a family to come home to, but Billy will have no one. 

Four soldiers came up to reinforce Billy.  One of the men gets wounded and stranded a short distance from Billy's foxhole.  Billy runs out, grabs the wounded man and brings him back almost reaching the foxhole.  The other soldiers grab the wounded man and bring him into the foxhole.  Meanwhile, Billy is returning fire.  He then turns his head to tell his mates to head back down hill.  This causes him to take his eye off the enemy and a Turkish soldier shoots Billy in the right side of his forehead. 

Lt. Fey comes to visit Billy.  He finds out that the sniper will be going home on the next hospital ship.  Melrose writes to Frances to tell her that Billy has been wounded and is headed for home.  He also asks her to write to him and send a photo of herself. 

On the ferry, Harry reads the newspaper:  "Gallipoli Evacuated;  35,000 men saved."  Harry sees a soldier walk by him who Harry thinks he knows.  The man is Billy.  Harry follows Billy and asks him if they know each other.  Billy says:  "No!" and walks away from him. 

Frances stays home from her volunteer work and plays the piano.  Mother wants her to go with her, but Frances refuses.  Mom wonders what will become of Frances.  Frances says perhaps she will travel.  Mom is not reassured.  She remains very worried about her daughter.

Off the ferry Harry continues to follow Billy.  Billy sees him following him, speeds up and then ducks into the woods.  This enables him to lose Harry.  Billy walks to Frances's house.  He enters through the kitchen and picks up a large kitchen knife.  He sneaks up behind her at the piano and frightens her.  When she sees the knife she really becomes alarmed.  But she keeps her cool and tells Billy to giver her the knife.  He threatens her with the knife.  Frances insists that they sit down and Billy complies.  Billy talks about his head hurting and Frances says she is sorry.   He then mentions Harry on the ferry boat.  He seems dazed and confused.  Billy starts remembering the group that was together dancing at Frances's house.  He starts naming the various people at the party.  But he forgets Diana.   Frances adds:  "And Diana."  Billy hears a car backfire and dives for the floor.  Frances says:  "You poor man!"  This triggers Billy's memories and he shouts: "You killed her!"  He then tries to strangle Frances.  Harry arrives in the nick of time to pull Billy off Frances.  Frances calls the police while Harry struggles with Billy.  Billy falls down.  He has reopened his war wound and blood trickles down his face.  Frances wipes the blood off his face.   The men from the mental facility arrive, put Billy in a straight jacket and take him away.

"Happy New Year 1916!" shouts Harry and the others.  Frances just looks wistful, not joining in the celebration. 

Walter hears the latest rumor.  The Red Cross is going to help exchange the captured Australians for captured Germans.  Walter is skeptical.  He asks his friend:  "Remember the leaflets?  Maybe it was true." 

 

This was a mini-series.  It is very similar to some other films about the Battle of Gallipoli.  But it has a lot more time to develop the characters.  And you really do get involved with the characters.  The film was as much about Frances and Diana as it was of their boyfriends Walter and Billy.  The war scenes are not on a grand scale and the action is limited. But I did not find this to be a problem.  My wife and I had already seen the Mel Gibson film about Gallipoli.  Scott Burgess did a very good job as Billy Mackenzie.  Sigrid Thornton was good also.  She's one of those women where you keep debating with yourself is she is pretty or not.  She is, she isn't, she is, she isn't. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:

See Gallipoli (1981).

 

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